Toughen Up, Ladies: 7 Ways to Be a Better Negotiator
I hate negotiating.
And while "hate" may be too strong a word, many people at least share my discomfort—especially women. According to a LinkedIn survey, 39% of American women feel anxious when it comes to negotiating.
"Women are less confident than men when it comes to negotiations," says Selena Rezvani, author of Pushback: How Smart Women Ask—and Stand Up—For What They Want. "A big part of that problem for women is the belief that relationships should trump agenda."
(Hey, maybe that's my problem. Or maybe I'm just a negotiating wimp.)
"If women can go into a negotiation with the mindset that both parties will benefit from the outcome," she says, "they may have a much easier time."
Here are Rezvani's tips to negotiate more successfully—and more confidently:
Don't Lower Your Fee. Give Something Away.
Say a prospective client isn't happy with the figure you quote for upcoming employee training. Rather than lowering your rate, create incentives with free additions that sound generous but are actually low cost and low effort to you.
For example, throwing in two one-hour follow-up webinars to reinforce the training helps a prospective client feel they get much more for their money. You, on the other hand, will not incur travel cost or substantial preparation time.
Be willing to flex and bend while staying firm where it matters most.
Respect Your Resume.
Weave in your credentials in ways that are hard for the other side to argue with. Call on this tactic as needed in a negotiation, particularly if you feel your credibility is called into question.
Of course you shouldn't be haughty or defensive; just speak assuredly and factually. Weave in, when needed, gentle but to the point reminders of your credibility and expertise.
Arm Yourself With Data.
When we know our stuff—average costs, delivery times, market trends and forces—we all tend to sit up a little straighter. We naturally have more belief in what we say, and we advocate more persuasively.
When they negotiate with a manufacturer, for example, strong negotiators make it a point to reference competing manufacturers' rates and practices. This "comparison crunch" shows the manufacturer you know the market, you won't be taken advantage of, and that your survival doesn't hinge on his business alone.
Call On Delays When Needed.
Just because you're well informed doesn't mean you will be ready to make a deal with an absolute "yes" or "no." In fact, you may be unsure just how right the terms truly are. Sometimes we just need to think things through or to involve someone not at the negotiating table.
There is nothing wrong with saying, "I'll think about that and get back to you.''
Taking a step back is never more important than in a ''drive-by'' negotiation where you're surprised or spontaneously engaged. If you're pressured to make a decision in a short time frame, then negotiate to lengthen the window.
And if you're ever hesitant about the conditions of a deal, either delay your response or refrain from saying "yes."
The old negotiating adage still rings true: if you dislike the terms now, you'll hate them later!
Staying quiet for a few seconds is most important at two critical junctures in a negotiation: Right after you make a request, and right after your counterpart answers.
That means you must deliver your "ask" cleanly and clearly. And it doesn't mean hesitating afterward only to add words to lessen your request or soften the blow.
It also doesn't mean tossing in a qualifier to soften the blow, like, "... if you can afford it." If they can't afford it, they'll tell you.
Acknowledge the Relationship Elephant.
Since your goal is to create a less adversarial feeling—and to maintain or promote a relationship—consider sitting side by side when it makes sense as opposed to face to face.
You can also use the term "we" to build cooperation, promoting the sense that it's "you and me versus the problem" rather than "you versus me." Simply lead with, "Thanks for meeting today. I'm confident that we'll be able to come to an agreement that meets both of our needs."
Use Your Eyes.
Maintaining consistent, direct eye contact says volumes about your level of engagement and your focus on the discussion at hand.
Maintaining eye contact also shows you're confident in your position and that you see your counterpart as a peer and equal. Eye contact is especially important if and when the conversation gets contentious.
Be polite, be courteous, and be professional, but don't back down.